Just the Facts

Five Facts on Justice Kennedy's Retirement

By No Labels
June 28, 2018 | Blog

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he was retiring from the court after 30 years of service. On a divided court, Justice Kennedy was often a deciding vote on key issues. Here are five facts on Anthony Kennedy and why his retirement is so important.

Justice Anthony Kennedy was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1988 by Republican President Ronald Reagan, following the retirement of Justice Lewis Powell

Before holding this position Justice Kennedy served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over much of the West Coast of the United States. Kennedy was known to lean conservative on most cases, but often swung left on key social issues. The Justice announced his resignation from the Supreme Court effective July 31, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

Justice Kennedy was often the deciding swing vote on key cases

Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who argues frequently before the Supreme Court has called Justice Kennedy “the most important member of the court in a century.” As the swing justice, he was the deciding vote in several high-profile cases regarding issues including the death penalty, voting rights, and gay rights. His resignation provides the Trump administration its second opportunity for a Supreme Court appointment— which also provides an opening to shift the court’s ideological balance to the right.

Kennedy’s voting became more unpredictable over time

At the outset of his career, Justice Kennedy agreed with his most conservative counterparts on the Court (court) over 90 percent of the time. However, as he grew older Justice Kennedy began to diverge from the conservatives on more decisions. One of his most notable rulings came in 2015 when he voted in in favor of same-sex marriage in the 2015 case, Obergefell v Hobbes. Kennedy was the deciding vote in the 5-4 decision, siding with the more liberal judges on the court. In addition, he has ruled to uphold portions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and was a decisive vote in the upholding of Roe v. Wade in 1992.

Immediately after Justice Kennedy’s resignation, President Trump announced that the new nominee would come from a previously crafted list of potential nominees

As a Republican, President Trump is expected to appoint a conservative judge, likely drawn from a list that has been created by an organization called The Federalist Society. A few potential nominees include, Brett Kavanaugh, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and Raymond M. Kethledge, a judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After President Trump announces his nominee, they must undergo a vetting process in the Senate. This includes a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as being put before the entire chamber where the prospective justice must be confirmed by a simple majority.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear 23 cases new cases when it reconvenes in October

Among those cases are Apple Inc v. Pepper, which determines if consumers may sue “anyone who delivers goods to them for antitrust damages,” Madison v. Alabama which determines if an inmate with mental disabilities may be prosecuted for a crime they do not recall committing, and Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which deals with the limitations of the Endangered Species Act as it relates to private land being deemed an unoccupied critical habitat. The retirement of Justice Kennedy leaves the Supreme Court at a stalemate and President Trump’s appointment will play a pivotal role in the outcome of cases heard not only in the coming session, but for decades to come.

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